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Mamata Banerjee's mega rally a hit as anti-BJP parties unite in Kolkata

  • Published at 06:38 pm January 20th, 2019
Leaders of India's main opposition parties join their hands together during 'United India' rally ahead of the general election, in Kolkata, India, January 19, 2019 Reuters

Who will be the prime minister? From Brigade Parade ground, only one name echoed: Mamata Banerjee

Whatever its eventual outcome, political history was made at Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee's giant rally in Kolkata on Saturday where she brought together more than 25 top leaders from 23 parties from across the country with one common objective - unite to oust the BJP.

Some concrete ideas emerged from four hours of deliberations in front of a huge audience - a committee to draw up a common manifesto; a campaign against the electronic voting machine, which was labelled a "chor machine"; and a one-is-to-one fight that involved pitting just one opposition candidate against the BJP in each seat.

"Modi Babu's expiry date is over," thundered Mamata Banerjee, speaking right at the end. "You know every medicine has an expiry date. The expiry date of the BJP is over."

Mamata’s guests did not disappoint. From Hardik Patel, the first speaker, to Tejashwi Yadav, the penultimate one, the attack against the ruling party was ferocious.

"In the last 70 years, Pakistan's dream was to somehow break up this country, divide the country. What Pakistan failed to do in 70 years, Modi and Amit Shah did in five," said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. "If they win the elections in 2019, India will change. They will change the constitution, they will stop elections. I shudder to think. But having come to this rally, I am sure their good days are over."

Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party leader, was also scathing in his criticism of the government. "The BJP has 40 allies. As the polls approach, you are making allies of the CBI and Enforcement Department also. But we are making an alliance with the people, and in a democracy, the people have the last word," he said.

Some of the most biting attacks against the BJP came from of its own. Former Union minister Arun Shourie slammed the Modi administration, saying: "There is no debate that this government has to go. No government has lied so much, no government has destroyed institutions, no government has neglected the defence sector more. The corruption in Rafale is the biggest."

And then, for good measure, he added, "Demonetisation was a lunatic idea."

The Congress gave up trying to maintain some distance from Mamata's initiative. MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi praised her move and termed the BJP as a "vengeful" government. Party leader Mallikarjun Kharge read out a message from Sonia Gandhi, which said that 2019 was not going to be an ordinary election.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav was also delayed because he had to make a court appearance. "Modi will lose his sleep. BJP bhagao, desh bachao (Drive away the BJP, save the nation). I thank Mamata Banerjee for uniting us. Our chowkidaar (watchman) must understand that he may be the chowkidaar, but the people of this country are his thanedaar (senior officer). If he does wrong, the thanedaar will punish him," he said.

He was taking a dig at Modi, who had described himself as the chowkidaar of the national treasury a few years ago.

And who will be the prime minister? From Brigade Parade ground, only one name echoed: Mamata Banerjee.

But Mamata, like the other leaders, said that the prime ministerial choice was a post-poll call. And she was so confident of a BJP debacle that she invited all the leaders present at the venue to Kolkata for a mega post-poll rally. "We are not makers of history, we are made by history... so said Martin Luther King Jr years ago. Today, the Brigade Parade Ground bore witness to a bit of both. A whole galaxy of opposition leaders has made history ahead of the 2019 elections," she said.

The BJP is watching, and it promises to be a bitter battle to the end.

This article is an excerpt of a NDTV article, which can be found at https://goo.gl/2VcjYG

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